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Corporal punishment of children is prohibited under the Child Protection Act, which entered into effect on 01.01.2016. Children have the right to not be treated or punished in a humiliating or inhuman way, and such acts constitute violation of the rights of a child. Corporal punishment of a child is a form of abuse, which is defined as punishment by the use of physical force with the intent is to cause the child pain or discomfort. Corporal punishment means any use of force or causing pain: pulling hair, slapping, birching, pushing, hitting, beating.

Children see, children do. Every day children learn from their parent what is being said and done. What children learn, in particular during their first years of life, stays with them throughout their entire life.  This affects the way they act toward other people when they grow up.

Why is corporal punishment bad?

  • children have the right to feel safe they deserve the same level of protection as adults
  • corporal punishment can cause children grave physical and psychological damages
  • it teaches children that abuse is an acceptable and appropriate tool to settle conflicts
  • hitting teaches a child that one can get what one wants through abuse
  • hitting a child does not teach them how to settle conflicts and resolve problems
  • if a child is hit, then over the years the feelings of hate will increase
  • hitting can become a habit; if it does not work, then next time the child is hit with a stronger force
  • adults are stronger than children; hitting in anger can cause serious injuries to the child

  • if a parent punishes, ignores the child, yells, nags, labels, the child remains stuck in their emotions and moving towards the solution becomes more complicated
  • if a parent tries to understand, show respect, empathy, find solutions, the child learns with the support of the parent how to control their emotions and to progress towards solutions
  • the primary duty of an adult is to help the child to calm down, because the child’s overheated brain cannot think, listen or understand what is being told
  • by moving towards the solution through soothing, understanding and listening, the parent provides the child a good model for handling such situations in future
  • an approach that is focussed on a solution lets both the child as well as the parent to preserve their dignity
  • the child’s natural reliance on the parent’s assistance, understanding and support is protected, thereby increasing the child’s self-confidence and confidence towards the world

 (family therapist Meelike Saarna)

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force against another person with the potential for causing the person injury and physical pain, and minor or severe damages. Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to: pushing, shoving, pinching, scratching, twisting, choking, shaking, throwing something, hitting, slapping, hair pulling, punching, holding down, using restraints.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is any behaviour of sexual nature that is forced, abusive or violent.

Such actions may include: unwanted sexual contacts, fondling, remarks, demonstration of one’s genitalia, masturbation.

Psychological abuse

Psychological abuse means intentional behaviour that is threatening by nature, potentially or actually causing damage to another person’s health.

Emotional abuse means treating another person as undeserving, inadequate, unloved and unwanted. Such behaviour causes the other person emotional damages and demeans their self-regard. Emotional abuse means causing another person constant and intentional hurt and disregarding their feelings. Such actions include: frightening, threatening, yelling, heckling, humiliating, insulting, name-calling, terrorising, manipulation, use of bans as bargaining tools, isolation from normal communication.

If anyone abuses you physically, sexually or psychologically, or if you know of someone who is suffering of such abuse, please tell someone whom you trust about it, or contact the Child Helpline Service. Nobody should suffer abuse, regardless who is the abuser – a family member, friends, acquaintances, or a teacher.

Also remember!

  • There is no justification for abuse, and nobody has to tolerate it!
  • Every individual has the right to feel safe and to dignity!
  • Speaking out about abuse is not tale-telling, but standing up for one’s rights!
  • Abuse can only happen if people disregard it and let it happen again!
  • Ask for help! If you do not have anyone in whom you can confide and speak about your concerns, call the Child Helpline Service 116 111, or write us at

  • In any emotion-laden situations the responsibility rests with the parent. The child does not have to cope with their feelings, the adult must.
  • Learn to notice and control your feelings, this helps to keep your understanding, patience and calm of an adult in any situation.
  • Every feeling has a line of ascent, the peak and the descent. If you are extremely annoyed (on the peak), you should back away from the situation, because your overheated brain is also not capable of thinking clearly. In an adult the physiological and psychological calm is fully restored in about 1.5 hours after the emotional peak.
  • If you have been easily irritable for some time, look into yourself: could your life outside the children need balancing: relationship with your partner? Other important relationships? Work? Financial matters?
  • Really be there for your child. The most common reason why a child turns “bad” is the parent’s emotional unavailability: inability to sustain a contact and dialogue.

(family therapist Meelike Saarna) 

If you notice that your emotions are getting intense, you can prevent this and maintain your ability to think. A parent’s calming strategies are always an example for children.

  • remind yourself the multiplication table, list in your head different shapes and colours a rational tasks keeps a thinking brain busy
  • focus acutely on a certain detail (a cloud, coffee aroma, napkin pattern)
  • breathe slowly and deeply in and out
  • blow bubbles or make a paper ball – blowing, breathing out calms the nervous system
  • make very large gestures, e.g. circles with your arms
  • make yourself a (secret) happy place, a den where you can withdraw for a while
  • say that you are getting irritated and are going away for a while (outdoors, to the toiler, to your happy place)
  • go to the bathroom and turn on the tap – splatter relaxes
  • slowly drink a glass of water or take a sip and keep it in your mouth while slowly counting to 10
  • make a joke, choose another activity, ask a paradoxical (weird) question
  • make yourself traffic light cards – red = stop
  • stretch and relax your body
  • ask for a hug or hug yourself 

(family therapist Meelike Saarna)